Published Sep 18, 2015Before her death in 1952 at the age of 33, Eva Perón, the First Lady of Argentina, was known for her work in what became known as Peronist trade unions. She spoke about labour rights and women's suffrage and ultimately started the nation's first female political party.
Her vocal stance for low-income, working class people and women — who weren't allowed to vote when the Feminist Peronist Party was initially formed — ultimately aided in maintaining populist vote for Juan Domingo Perón and was, in part, why her death was met with such resounding grief amidst the populace: crowds gathered outside of the presidential residence, spanning more than ten blocks; thousands of people were injured in the mad rush to gain proximity to her body during its transport; for two weeks following, lines stretched for city blocks waiting to view her body at the Ministry of Labour.
What Pablo Agüero's cleverly structured, experimental biography-cum-drama Eva Doesn't Sleep details is the history and travels of Eva Perón's dead body as juxtaposed with the turbulent political history of Argentina. It starts with Admiral Emilio Massera (Gael Garcia Bernal), a leading participant in the 1976 Argentine coup and resulting Dirty War, opining about Perón with an intense misogynistic hatred, and though the pointed specificity of gender is involved, reflecting the resentment towards her role in securing the women's right to vote, this vitriol is indicative of an endless cycle of military repression in the region, attempting to silence even the utterance of Perón's name.
This perspective is interspersed with historical footage and politically metaphorical dramatizations of situations arising in relation to the embalming, transport and manipulation of her body. Since she was embalmed and preserved for display for years following her death, the military was able to get their hands on it when Juan Perón fled the country during a coup in 1955. This is dramatized with further dialogues and oblique nightmarish footage before making a pointed observation about the mercurial cultural disposition of the region by detailing the bonding and subsequent fight between a driver (Denis Lavant) and a military officer with differing views on the handling of Eva's body while transporting it.
Agüero's perspective isn't veiled or even remotely subtle — he's obviously immersed in politics and fascinated by the tumultuous history of his homeland — but while most filmmakers would simply lay out a biography and make a simultaneously emotional and linear argument to validate their own ideology, Agüero takes the opportunity to explore the medium of film and how we perceive history. The various military coups and the specific history of Perón's body, being buried under a fake marker in Italy by the military before being recovered years later, are juxtaposed to make a more intriguing metaphorical assertion than standard factoids would allow. Similarly, his use of stock footage, dramatizations and truly bizarre imagery challenges convention and stimulates audience interpretation.
Though Eva Doesn't Sleep is made somewhat provincial by its subject matter, the manner in which Agüero tells his story is playing with some intriguing ideas about how we perceive a narrative and digest information. It's a fascinatingly creative work that further cements the Argentinean auteur as a vital voice in the cinematic landscape. (JBA Productions)